‘Luther’ Recap, Ending And Character, Explained: Who Is DCI John Luther? Why Is John In Prison?


An obsessed investigator or a flawed vigilante. Who exactly is DCI John Luther? The layers of his character are as thick as the coat he wears and as deep as an all-consuming black hole. Maybe John doesn’t want you to know the real him, and that’s why even after watching five seasons of “Luther,” we are still not able to describe him. He is evidently not a person who fits neatly into categories because it is John’s spontaneous choices that surprise us every time.

We first met John Luther when he was trying to catch a notorious pedophile and serial killer, Henry Madsen. John follows him to a factory, where Henry suddenly steps on a weak platform and ends up hanging from a ledge while John questions him about his victim, Mia Dobson. Henry quickly provides the details John wanted, but John still doesn’t try to save Henry from falling. Why? It is said that it is one’s choices that define one’s character, and here, John’s choice was to not save a criminal. He believed that the world would be a better place if there were one less person like Henry alive. At this moment, John is a detective who becomes both judge and jury, and in his court of law, he announces a death sentence for Henry Madsen. However, John is not a murderer. He scrutinizes his actions deeply, which is why from here on, in every single case he takes on, he tries not to kill or get people killed, as that is not morally correct. But the tragedy of Luther’s life is that people around him get killed regardless.

 A Complicated Affair With Alice Morgan

There are many instances in literary and cinematic history where we have witnessed a toxic relationship between a flawed protagonist and an antagonist. Alice is someone we find similar to James Moriarty (in the case of Sherlock) or the Joker (in the case of Batman). In fact, Luther shares many traits with Batman, as the caped crusader himself doesn’t believe in killing criminals, but those criminals don’t mind killing the friends and family of our vigilante. Nevertheless, Luther first met Alice Morgan while investigating the murder of her parents who were killed in their house. Luther saw no remorse on Alice’s face, and within a few minutes of interrogation, he was certain that she was the one who’d killed her parents. How and why? Those are not important in this discussion. 

What Alice saw in Luther was an expanding black hole that was ready to consume the whole world, and it could be said that it was Alice who made Luther realize the fragile ground he was treading upon. Alice showed the mirror to Luther and told him that what he did to Henry Madsen was the same thing she did to her parents because, in the eyes of the law, murder is murder. So, how were Luther and Alice different? At this point, Alice threatened to expose to the world what Luther had done. Henry was in a coma and could wake up at any moment, thereby jeopardizing Luther’s entire career. But Alice didn’t want to part from our beloved tragic hero, at least not yet, and that is why she made the choice to kill Henry. Why? Alice knew that Luther was too sane to kill again, but not her. She became the dark side of Luther’s personality. The Yin that was ready to pull the trigger whenever Luther’s life was in danger. She would then disappear temporarily, but she was always around, watching over John Luther from a distance like a protector.

Everyone Around DCI John Luther Dies Eventually

John Luther is a walking curse, and he is in denial of this fact. Not just John, but any policeman or detective who spends his days and nights running after psychopathic serial killers inevitably endangers their family and friends. Maybe in the entire five seasons, John believed that the criminals he was running after were going to play by the rules and wouldn’t go after his friends. John was always wrong, and by the time he accepted this fact, it was too late. John had lost everyone he once held dear.

When we first met John in “Luther” Season 1, his marriage with the humanitarian lawyer, Zoe Gillian, had already failed. The reason for their separation was simple. John was obsessed with crimes, criminals, and bringing justice to the world, and Zoe couldn’t feel the presence of her husband anymore. Many people lauded the fact that John could think like a criminal mastermind, which was why he was so good at catching them. But you know that with such great powers comes a greater curse. When you start thinking like a psychopath, you cannot just switch on and off that process at your own will. It becomes an integral part of your personality, and you cannot run away from that darkness. Because you become that darkness. For Zoe, John was no longer available, either physically or emotionally. Even while she was talking, John was thinking about his ongoing cases. In short, John brought misery into his own house.

During the later seasons, Zoe was shot dead at her house by one of John’s best friends and colleagues, DCI Ian Reed. Ian was a corrupt cop involved in a robbery gone wrong that resulted in the deaths of many innocent individuals, and when John found out about it, he tried to help his friend because that’s what he had done for him in the past. But John failed to gain Ian’s trust, and things went south. In a panic, Ian killed Zoe, and from thereon, there was no stopping the hotheaded John Luther, who swore to take revenge. At this moment, John was at his most vulnerable, almost on the verge of crossing the lines of morality, and thus his “Yin” paid a visit. After Zoe’s death, Alice filled the void in John’s life and didn’t think twice before pulling the trigger on Ian Reed. After Henry Madsen’s incident, John wouldn’t have dared kill anyone else, but Alice had no such qualms. Alice was arrested for the time being, but John, as a favor, helped her run away from the facility. She once again disappeared from the scene while John continued to spend his days and nights doing what he did best. 

The third most tragic death in John’s life was that of DS Justin Ripley, who’d once aspired to become like his hero, John Luther. After Zoe and Ian’s deaths, John wanted to leave the force and was just preparing Justin to step into his shoes. However, in trying to become like his hero, Justin lost his life when he was killed by a psychopathic vigilante, Tom Marwood. John was suspected of Justin’s murder, and once again, Alice appeared to save her love. After the case of Tom Marwood was dealt with, John finally took a break from the force but decided to return when he found out about Alice’s death. 

You can see there is a pattern. Every time John gets into serious trouble, Alice appears out of the blue to help her lover. But it wasn’t a simple love story, and they were an unlikely couple. One was a policeman; the other was a psychopath. The two parallel lines that were running in the same direction but were never meant to be together. John loved Alice’s criminal mind as it excited him, but Alice was looking for something more. They tried to settle down for a bit, but John was not a family man or a lover. He was not wired that way. John was a prototype built to solve crimes, and that was his only purpose in life, or at least, that is what he believed. 

When John abandoned Alice, or maybe when they both abandoned each other, Alice went back to a life of crime. She made a deal with a mafia leader, George Cornelius, who offered her huge amounts of money in exchange for some priceless diamonds. But George was a nasty old man who thought he could easily trick a person like Alice, and that’s what he tried to do. The deal went wrong, and Alice disappeared from the scene. When she came to London, she abducted George’s son and demanded the money that she had been promised. By this time, John believed that Alice was dead, and had only one friend left whom he could rely on. His name was DS Benny Silver. Benny was the only one left in the department who knew about John’s twisted ways of solving crimes and was ready to help John through thick and thin. And if you have understood the pattern, then you can already guess who is going to die next.

John Luther Is Arrested For Murder (or Murders)

It was in John’s nature to get himself entangled in some serious controversies. Criminals loved to threaten John. Maybe they found it amusing or exciting, and George Cornelius was no different. After his son was kidnapped, George abducted John’s only friend, Benny Silver, and demanded Alice Morgan in exchange for Benny. Did we mention that John was in trouble? So, it was obvious that Alice reappeared from the dead, right? Well, that’s what happened. Alice helped John rescue Benny, and in order to put an end to the beef, John took George’s son back home. The next conflict here is that, in doing a good deed, John enraged the worst nemesis of his life, Alice. She wasn’t ready to let things go so easily and thus killed George’s son to settle the score.

For an old mafia boss like George Cornelius, the murder of his son was a declaration of war. He didn’t waste a moment to hire the most ruthless hitman in town to kill John and Alice and anyone who came in between. The hired gun, Palmer, was the one who pulled the trigger on Benny Silver and pushed John off the rails. Still, a hot-headed John tried to solve things in a systematic manner. He pointed a gun at George’s head and asked him to stop Palmer from killing more people. George agreed, but Palmer wasn’t ready to put his gun down until he had put a bullet in John’s head. Things went south once again, and George had to shoot Palmer to put an end to the bloodbath. John wanted to arrest Benny’s killer, but George knew that Palmer would testify against him; hence, in order to secure himself, he shot Palmer down and clicked a picture of John pointing a gun at him. Later, while rescuing Alice, he lied to her that he had killed George and they could put the rivalry to rest, but Alice knew that John was lying to her, which was the one thing she never expected from John Luther.

In the meantime, DSU Martin Schenk found CCTV footage of George standing near the dead body of his fallen officer. Schenk gathered the task force and arrived at George’s mansion to arrest him, but George already had a way to protect himself. He showed him the picture of John near the crime scene with a gun in hand pointed at Palmer, and Schenk couldn’t look away. He probably suspected that John had killed a man in order to take revenge for Benny. On the other hand, Alice failed to kill George, and for her failure, she blamed John Luther, as he could have pulled the trigger when he had the opportunity, but he didn’t. So, you see, both the law and the criminal had a mutual target here, John Luther. In anger, Alice shot down another cop named DS Catherine Halliday and tried to finish John. It was the ultimate battle we had all been waiting for. However, from what we knew of Alice, she could kill the entire world but not John Luther. She could have killed herself even, but not her lover. 

Probably, the ultimate battle that took place was just to silence her own demons, as she couldn’t live with the fact that the man she loved the most had betrayed her for something as simplistic as justice. Yes, Alice didn’t give the same weight to justice as John did, and it was the single most important factor that destroyed their relationship. John was obsessed with it, and Alice couldn’t understand why. In a fight that took place inside a building under construction, Alice lost her life while John was arrested for his crimes. Now “Luther” Season 5 ends on a vague, as we are not sure what crimes Luther had been arrested for. It could be for Palmer’s murder, or maybe Benny’s. Schenk had recovered DNA evidence from John’s house that suggested that he had tried to protect the most wanted criminal, Alice Morgan. At this point, John Luther had been a part of too many crimes, and any of them could be traced back to him to put him behind bars. Only this time, there is no help coming from the outside, as his sworn protector is dead as well. 

John Luther Decides to Run Away, But Why? 

It is an uncanny romance between an obsessed police officer and a criminal mastermind. They are like the two sides of the same coin and act like the Yin to the other’s Yang. In short, they complete each other and couldn’t live without the other. John Luther couldn’t help but save people, and our new antagonist, David Robey, knew this weakness. He craves the attention of the ultimately flawed detective because he knows he is the only one who can stop him or find it. You see, people like David Robey or Alice Morgan could go on committing crimes but then get bored after a point because they lose their purpose. They want to be chased or given an opportunity to amp up their game, and John Luther is the perfect lab rat for such an experiment. So here we are again, to witness another love story, this time, between John Luther and David Robey. 

As depicted in the trailer of “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” a woman demands justice for her son, and John is all ears, ready to arrest the man responsible for such a crime. He is even ready to break the law to catch the serial killer on the run because that is what John does best. And hence, probably, it is the reason why John runs away from prison to catch another monster that is threatening innocent individuals. How he does it again is surely going to be worth watching.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This